Education International
Education International

Speech by Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary and Chair of the Conference of the Global Union Federations at the 19th ICFTU Congress in Vienna, Austria

published 31 October 2006 updated 31 October 2006

Below is the speech made by EI General Secretary and Chair of the Conference of the Global Union Federations at the 19th Congress of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) which is currently being held in Vienna, Austria.

This is the last congress of the ICFTU, and the next day, a new trade union international – the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) - will be born.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------- VALUES WE BELIEVE IN Fred van Leeuwen Chair, Conference of Global Union Federations and General Secretary, Education International

Brothers, Sisters,

So the day has finally arrived. The day when we dissolve the ICFTU and the WCL, in order to launch, tomorrow, a new International Trade Union Confederation.

This new Confederation will be more than the ICFTU and the WCL combined. It will be more than the sum of its parts.

Brothers and Sisters, this is the eve of a new era for the trade union movement in a world of change. Today we take the steps necessary for that new leap forward tomorrow. As we do so, let us take stock of the values that have formed the veritable underpinning of our movement from the mid-twentieth century,

  • the values that we in the Global Union Federations have shared with the ICFTU,
  • the values which have brought us to the point we have reached today,
  • the values we believe in...

First we believe in solidarity. Is it old-fashioned to say that? I say no! Solidarity means supporting each other; recognizing that united we stand, divided we fall.

Second, we believe in trade union freedom. We believe that it is an inalienable right of all employees to associate freely in organizations of their choice, the right to associate, to organize, to negotiate, and to bargain collectively.

Third, we believe in independence from governments or authorities of any kind be they political, religious or any other kind.

Fourth, we reject all forms of discrimination. We hold that all persons are born equal in their dignity and rights as human beings; that all acts of discrimination are contrary to human nature and constitute barriers to the establishment of communities founded on freedom, dignity and justice.

And, through the advocacy and determination of our sisters, the trade union movement has at last given attention to developing the leadership role of women in society, and in our organizations.

Last but not least, we support democracy and social justice, the ideals of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These were the values that kept us together, kept us moving forward as a family of global organizations, for over half a century. And we have been a family, the ICFTU together with the International Trade Secretariats, today the Global Union Federations. Each sector of employment has its special features. In education, we debated the role of the teacher as a professional and as a trade unionist, and we came to the conclusion that professionalism and trade unionism were two sides of the same coin. And we brought those roles of the organized teaching profession together to create Education International, as part of the family.

As the Berlin Wall fell, our colleagues from Eastern and Central Europe established their independence, and joined the family – in all freedom. Then when we looked again into the destiny of our movement with our colleagues from the World Confederation of Teachers, we began by looking at our values! And we found, brothers and sisters, that we had common values – the very values that I have ventured to enunciate here today – that and respect for diversity.

Brothers and sisters, those values got us to where we are today. Those values are our foundation for the future. None of us can successfully confront the challenges of the global economy alone. We can however do it together. And for that we must be clear about the values we believe in – the values that got us here, the values that will take us forward.

Thank you.